Moving into a new career

Watch Elizabeth's story here
Elizabeth Johnson
  • Senior Specialist – Wai Ora Strategic Programmes

A new career direction and a passion for the environment was what motivated Elizabeth Johnson to start her journey to achieve the Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Management (Level 7) through Open Polytechnic.

She says she chose the sustainable management because she wanted to move into a career she was passionate about.

“I did a Bachelors previously in Australia but it wasn't really relevant to where I wanted to go in my career, so I needed to up-skill,” says Elizabeth. “It took a while to find my career direction - I thought it was in international relations, but really, I wanted to get into environmental policy.”

One of Elizabeth’s research assignments in the diploma opened opportunities in her workplace to move into a new role that she is passionate about.

“The research project that I did was on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, a passion area for me. I used the assignment to network more with the new department that I am in now, which is implementing that policy for Auckland Council.”

Looking back on her studies Elizabeth said “I found that the courses were relevant to the area that I wanted to get into in really practical environmental management courses. So that was one thing. The courses were appealing, being able to do everything online and not have to go in to any exams.” Elizabeth explained that studying through the Open Polytechnic was “a great career move.”

The skills gained through the diploma boosted Elizabeth’s knowledge and gave her the confidence she needed to step into her chosen field.

“The courses allowed me to up-skill in areas I haven't studied in before and to get a foot in the door in an industry that I wanted to be a part of. It helped me build on the skills that I already had from previous study and apply them in a much more practical and useful way.”

Distance Learning

The flexibility of studying online and by distance was a big drawcard for Elizabeth. She didn’t have to attend physical lectures and could submit assignments online. Because of this she was able to fit her studies around the rest of her life. She was able to optimise her time by doing all the course work online from home when it worked for her. “I could just work when I was able to and when I needed to.”

“I was working full-time and needed something that I could fit around a 40-hour week and the rest of life, so distance learning worked much better than having to go to classes and being able to submit assignments online was so convenient.”

Elizabeth was pregnant for part of her studies. She says she finished her studies about a month before she gave birth. When she came back from maternity leave she started her new role. Distance learning worked well for her during this time. She said, “I did quite a bit of my diploma while I was pregnant, and it was great being able to work while I was at home, not feeling very well and still keep up with the assignments and deadlines that I needed to meet.”

Elizabeth said she enjoyed her studies and found the Open Polytechnic was supportive. “The support that I had from Open Polytechnic, the tutors and the lecturers was fantastic.”

Following her passion

After completing her qualification Elizabeth is excited to be working in a role directly related to her studies and putting what she has learned into practice. “Now that I'm working in an area that I really care about, I'm excited to come to work to make a difference. To engage with communities about water quality and keeping our streams and our beaches nice and clean.”

For those looking to take the leap into study, Elizabeth says, “If you need to change career direction you can, if you need to take a break you can, and if you want to push yourself and challenge yourself you can. Just do it.”

I couldn’t have asked for a clearer relationship between my study and my new work.